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““Make Music, Women, Music!””: The Amazonian Power of Music in Heinrich von Kleist's Penthesilea (1808)

Amy Emm
Women in German Yearbook
Vol. 27 (2011), pp. 31-57
DOI: 10.5250/womgeryearbook.27.2011.0031
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5250/womgeryearbook.27.2011.0031
Page Count: 27
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““Make Music, Women, Music!””: The Amazonian Power of Music in Heinrich von Kleist's Penthesilea (1808)
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Abstract

The Amazon hymn near the center of Penthesilea (1808) has gone largely unnoticed, but it constitutes a unique and self-conscious moment of performance within the play. This essay asks what it means when Kleist's warrior women sing in the context of the play's performative constructions and deconstructions of gender and representation. It examines Kleist's preoccupation with shaping and idealizing female musical performance in his letters and journalism, and argues that the parallel negotiations of a feminine music and a genderless musical ideal play out in Penthesilea. As the drama progresses toward a staging of its musico-natural ideal, it incorporates operatic forms. As a result, the play's destabilization of gender boundaries takes place through, and is eventually undermined by, its destabilization of genre.

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